Students Present at Undergraduate Research Symposium

Every year, high-achieving students present the results of their faculty-guided research projects at Loyola Marymount University’s Undergraduate Research Symposium. Below are a few highlights from the 2016 Undergraduate Research Symposium, which took place on Saturday, March 19.

Aaliyah Jordan ’16, African American Studies and sociology major, women’s studies minor
“Out from the Shadows: Black Midlife and Older Gay and Lesbian Adults’ Experiences of Resilience and Marginalization”
Mentor: Anna Muraco, sociology

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Aaliyah Jordan ’16 studied intersectionality, the ways in which multiple, overlapping identities like race, gender, and sexual orientation impact individuals’ life experiences in the context of social structures. Using interviews conducted by her faculty mentor Anna Muraco’s research team, Jordan conducted her own qualitative analysis on interviews with black, midlife and older, gay and lesbian adults. She found that individuals’ modes of self-identification are deeply informed by the social institutions in which they are embedded. For example, an older, black, gay man involved in his Evangelical church might not express comfort with his gay identity, because of his community’s social norms surrounding masculinity and homosexuality. Reflecting on her research experience, Jordan explained, “With marginalized communities, the best thing you can do is just listen to the stories. Too often, people study a population without listening.”

Kimberly Smith ’16, psychology major
“The Effect of Support Groups for Disabled Individuals”
Mentor: Ricardo Machon, psychology

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Although research shows that social support is associated with well-being for those living with disabilities, there is a gap in the literature about the specific ways that social support can help individuals with disabilities. Kimberly Smith ’16 conducted a survey of disability support group participants to assess whether social support in the form of support groups affects the quality of life, coping abilities, and feelings of self-acceptance for individuals with a mental or physical disability. About the mentorship she received, Smith said, “Dr. Machon helped me find scales that would help make assessments, and he let me take the lead in running the research.”

Nazeli Ekimyan ’16, English major and screenwriting minor
“Not so Happily Ever After: How Fairy Tales Have Changed”
Mentor: Alexandra Neel, humanities

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Nazeli Ekimyan ’16 studied the ways beloved fairy tales have evolved over time – from tragic cautionary tales to feel-good, happily-ever-after stories. As she wrote in her abstract, “Little Red Riding Hood never made it out alive, and Goldilocks broke her neck jumping out of a window.” Ekimyan looked at the history of media and film adaptations of historic fairy tales, hypothesizing that the stories have become more “sugarcoated” over time to make them easier to market to general audiences. With this research in tow, she is now working on a feature-length film script that stays true to the original moral and fairy tale – setting out to prove that even unsettling stories can be appealing to a broad audience.

Hannah Gioia ’17, political science and philosophy major, and Priscilla Torres ’17, political science major
“Weapons of Mass Hunger: The Latent Threat to Human Security”
Mentor: Jennifer Ramos, political science

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Political science and philosophy major Hannah Gioia ’17 and political science major Priscilla Torres ’17 studied the intersection of conflict and food insecurity. This relationship is typically examined through a qualitative lens, but their study sought to incorporate quantitative data analysis. “We learned how to do statistical analysis, in a way that was infinitely beneficial for our futures,” Gioia explained. “We had issues with data availability, as getting data in conflict regions is often challenging.” Although findings were inconclusive, Gioia and Torres learned a lot about food insecurity – and the challenges of quantitative research.

Ugonma Nwankwo ’16, political science major
“Playing it Safe: The Role of Safetivism in Political Participation”
Mentor: Richard Fox, political science

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Political science major Ugonma Nwankwo ’16 thinks that online political activism via social media isn’t necessarily a result of laziness; for some, it’s an issue of safety. “People who participate as activists via social media have been popularly classified as ‘slactivists’,” she explained. “I created a new term, ‘safetivist’, because there’s a group of people who participate online rather than offline because of the risk level involved in offline activism.” She conducted a nationwide survey and used regression analysis to parse the responses, which numbered over 500. Her preliminary findings showed that women, white individuals, and people with college degrees were more likely to be safetivists.